In Landmark Vanderbilt Minerals Suit, Connecticut Supreme Court Sets National Caselaw on Occupational Disease Exclusion
Case Study

In Landmark Vanderbilt Minerals Suit, Connecticut Supreme Court Sets National Caselaw on Occupational Disease Exclusion

October 7, 2019

The Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a state appellate court ruling in favor of Goldberg Segalla’s client, National Casualty, and other insurers involving an issue of first impression. The ruling identified significant implications for the insurance and manufacturing industries nationwide―notably concerning the applicability of the occupational disease exclusion as a bar to coverage for non-employees of an insured issue.

Goldberg Segalla partner Larry D. Mason, based in Chicago, handled the matter from its inception, through a setback on summary judgment at the trial level, to a victory at the Appellate Court of Connecticut and ultimately to briefing and oral argument before the Connecticut Supreme Court, advancing a novel theory that he first developed years earlier concerning what Larry labeled “the underappreciated exclusion.”

This matter involved a coverage dispute between Vanderbilt Minerals LLC and 30 of its insurers. Over the past several decades, thousands of underlying plaintiffs have brought personal injury suits against Vanderbilt in venues across the country alleging that the company’s open-pit-mined talc contained asbestos and that exposure to its product caused mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other injuries. In 2007, Vanderbilt brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment to determine the scope of the obligations of its historic insurance carriers to cover asbestos injury claims, including defense and indemnity, under policies issued across 60 years of its operations.

In the October 4, 2019 opinion, Connecticut’s highest court rejected Vanderbilt’s appeal of the appellate court’s holding that the application of the occupational disease exclusion is not limited to claims brought against its own employees.

Larry was quoted in an article for Law360 discussing how the decision on the occupational disease exclusion will have a lasting impact in Connecticut and across the United States.

“The court thankfully has followed the long history of other courts who have followed rules of contract construction and honored policy language’s intent without torturing that language outside of its plain wording,” Larry said. “This decision is particularly relevant in the toxic tort arena, where there are a number of occupational disease exposures, such as asbestos, silica and benzene exposures, where workers come into contact with substances that could fall within the occupational disease exclusion.”

The case received additional coverage in Business Insurance―which called the ruling on the exclusions a victory for fundamental contract interpretation principle―and Larry was quoted again in an extensive analysis piece from Law360.

Read the full articles here:

MORE ABOUT GOLDBERG SEGALLA’S GLOBAL INSURANCE SERVICES PRACTICE:

Goldberg Segalla is one of the premier law firms advising and representing the global insurance and reinsurance industry. Our 75-lawyer Global Insurance Services practice group, which Law360 ranks among the largest in the United States, exists to serve insurers, reinsurers, and all others operating in the insurance arena.

Larry D. Mason helps to lead the Environmental and Mass Torts subgroup of the Global Insurance Services practice. Larry and other members of the subgroup in Goldberg Segalla’s offices around the country frequently handle multimillion-dollar, multi-party disputes arising out of environmental contamination and pollution, toxic tort, or product liability issues—often involve significant exposure regarding a policyholder’s core business. We partner with the foremost industry consultants at all stages of a claim and throughout the course of coverage litigation, working to ensure that the technical aspects of each case are properly addressed. Our collective experience with the CERCLA/Superfund, RCRA, Clean Air Act, CPSC, and a wide variety of other federal and state statutes serves our clients well in insurance disputes.